e038. Storytelling with Tricia Montalvo Timm

Tricia Montalvo Timm (she/her) is the Board Director of Salsify. Salsify is the foundation of digital shelf success, a collection of diverse and rapidly evolving digital touchpoints used by shoppers to engage with brands and discover, research, and purchase products.. Based in Boston, Salsify employs 800 employees across the United States, Europe and Australia. Tricia is the author of Embrace the Power of You: Owning Your Identity at Work.

Including You Interview with Tricia Montalvo Timm

Full Interview Transcript

[00:00:48] Amy: Welcome back to Including You. I’m Amy C. Wanninger, the Inclusion Catalyst. My guest today is Tricia Montalvo Tim. She is the board director of Salsify. Salsify is the foundation [00:01:00] of digital shelf success, a collection of diverse and rapidly evolving digital touchpoints used by shoppers to engage with brands and discover research and purchase products.

Based in Boston, Salsify employs 800 people across the U.S., Europe, and Australia. Tricia is also the author of Embrace the Power of You: Owning Your Identity at Work, which launched this week. Tricia, welcome to the show.

[00:01:27] Tricia: Thank you, Amy for having me.

[00:01:29] Amy: I am really excited to have you here to talk about Salsify and can you explain just a little bit more about what the company does and what your role is as board director?

[00:01:39] Tricia: Yes. So Salsify is a B2B enterprise SaaS software company. We sell commerce experience management products that help brand manufacturers, distributors, retailers collaborate on the digital shelf. So think about it as a system of record for products that allows retailers to bring their products across digital platform.

[00:02:00] Amy:  Excellent. And your role as board director, what are some of your responsibilities?

[00:02:04] Tricia: Yes. So I am independent board director and so as a board director, I’ve oversight over the company. And we meet regularly and I meet with the management team obviously periodically. And you know what I think the interesting role for me is that I get to meet with the head of D&I regularly.

So D&I has been at the forefront of how they think about the business and its priority in the business.

[00:02:31] Amy: I’m so glad you said that because my, my, usually my starter question is, why is inclusion so important at your company? And it sounds like you’re poised to speak to that. Why does a B2B company like Salify need to focus on inclusion?

[00:02:45] Tricia: Saksify its core values is a people first company. And when they founded the company, they really deliberately thought about how it’s going to make sure that its employees come first and all of its decisions. They value authenticity. They believe in the [00:03:00] power of human differences.

And they really believe that diverse perspectives will bring the best decisions. And so in all of the work that they do in fostering their culture, and actually it’s interesting. And this goes to their company value. They don’t call it DEI, they call it EDI, where equity comes first because the core of a successful program is bringing equity first.

So it’s really just at the core of their values and how they think about the strategic vision of the company.

[00:03:31] Amy: So you mentioned putting equity first. Why do you think that’s so important at the company?

[00:03:33] Tricia: No, because I think that companies tend to focus on diversity. They tend to focus on, let’s bring in more diverse employees to show good statistics.

But as all of us know that there’s three prongs: there’s bringing in the diverse. employees, there’s creating a culture of inclusion and there’s making sure that there’s equity across the board. And if we don’t [00:04:00] think about equity first, we may not really truly bring an inclusive culture to the company.

So thinking about compensation, thinking about benefit programs and how are we making sure that we’re thinking about equitable practices across the board for the company?

[00:04:19] Amy: So can you help us understand what are some practical ways that Salsify does this? Are there certain initiatives that they’ve launched?

Are there metrics in place? How are they ensuring that equity is brought to the forefront?

[00:04:31] Tricia: Yeah. I think, it starts with probably what most companies do. They start with unconscious bias training, ensuring that Employees and managers and leaders across the board are really thinking about unconscious bias and providing language and understanding where our blind spots are.

They’re investing in an EDI team with a head of a EDI and a programs manager and really creating budget so that this is not an afterthought, it’s something that’s included in their strategic vision. They’re also investing in pipeline. One of the things that they do that’s I [00:05:00] think is fabulous is they partner with an organization called Hack Diversity to expand the talent pool, and they recruit from there and they hire from there.

So really investing in pipeline to ensure that it’s bringing in excellent talent. And they really are investing in their ERGs. They are making sure that they have ERGs for all underrepresented identities, and they’re partnering them with executive sponsors to ensure that there’s visibility at the executive level of many of the issues that the that these ERGs may be facing.

[00:05:31] Amy: And what kind of results are you seeing from all these efforts? Because that’s a lot of, it’s a lot of work. There’s a lot of focus on this clearly and it’s a multi-pronged initiative. Are you seeing traction in these areas?

[00:05:42] Tricia: We are. The company just completed, it’s a second annual inclusion survey.

That’s another thing that they do, is they wanna ensure that they’re measuring. It’s not just Aspirational, but intentional in their D&I EDI strategy. So they do an annual survey. They’ve just completed their second annual [00:06:00] survey, which measures how they’re doing and how employees are feeling.

And they score very well. And so they continue to measure this, and they will over year. And they’ve also just issued their EDI report, so they’re really looking and making sure there’s transparency around their work. So that it’s not just talk that we’re looking at data and we’re looking to measure to see where we’re making our biggest changes.

And I think they’re really measuring it in a couple of different ways.

[00:06:28] Amy: And this is important to you, I’m guessing because you have come up through the tech industry as a Latina, and I know that you’ve had a focus on equity in your own career and that led you to write your book, embrace the Power of You.

Can you talk a little bit about why this book, why now?

[00:06:43] Tricia: Yeah, no, as you mentioned I’m a first-generation Latina professional. My mom is from El Salvador, my father’s from Ecuador. And I started my career and been the first and the fewer, the only in the room my entire career and really had to figure out how to [00:07:00] navigate the workplace and hit a lot of challenges along the way.

And now, as 25 years later, and I’m looking at back in my career just some of the lessons that I learned as being an “other” and wanna really help others that feel like that in the room. And given the tools and strategies to succeed, but also give managers and leaders a perspective of what it might feel like to be an “other.”

And so at the end of each chapter of my book, I have specific strategies of what can managers do to create inclusive environments for their employees. Because without, if we ask our employees to bring their authentic selves to work, we as leaders need to create cultures that are gonna embrace those employees and accept and embrace the different perspectives.

Making sure that they’re successful at the company.

[00:07:50] Amy: Something I think that a lot of companies overlook. When they promote someone into management, they may or may not give them management training, they might train them on some fundamentals of the job. But you [00:08:00] don’t turn, in my opinion,

you don’t turn a high potential employee into an inclusive leader just by changing their job title, giving them a bump in pay, and assigning some direct reports to them. And so what are some of the skills that you believe are essential for inclusive leadership people who are managing tech teams or other teams in the workplace?

[00:08:21] Tricia: Yeah, I think one is really examining your, your, where you came from. What, what lived experience are you bringing to the workplace, and what are your blind spots? Where may you not be seeing the differences and when those differences show up to. Oftentimes we say we want, we want different perspectives in the room.

And then when somebody chimes in with a different perspective, say, why are they always challenging me? Or why are they not going along with the crowd? So really thinking, we actually want those different perspectives. And one of the strategies, for example, I say is instead of. Making it hard for that person to constantly being the one [00:09:00] challenging,

you as a leader can go in and say, okay, we’ve heard a lot of opinions. I wanna hear something that’s opposite. What is different than what we’ve just been talking about. So it invites the group to bring in different perspectives rather than having that same person always being the one that’s bringing that diverse perspective.

And the same goes with creating cultures. Self-care, like mental health is another something that we as leaders are always thinking about. And instead of having the person that is seeking some balance, for example, in their career what as a leader, can you go in and say, “Hey, we’re gonna have no meeting Fridays for everybody” so that somebody doesn’t always have to be the one coming in and saying, I need a little bit more balance or boundaries.

So I think it’s thinking about what can we, as. Go into companies and think about how do we make this a little bit more inclusive for everybody and how can we take the first step rather than asking those that are feeling marginalized to take the first step always.

[00:09:55] Amy: I think it’s so important, this point that you bring up about normalizing [00:10:00] or operationalizing some of these things that people might.

Because a lot of times people, the people who need the most will be the most afraid to ask Yeah. Or will feel that they suffer the most for asking. . Whereas as a leader, it’s pretty low risk to say, yeah, you know what? Today in the meeting, we’re gonna set a timer. Everybody gets five minutes, nobody gets interrupted, go, right?

Today, Bill is gonna be the voice of dissent. And that’s Bill’s job is to be the voice of descent today. So that it’s not always, Tricia or it’s not always Amy. Exactly. And I think it’s those little things that make a big difference because then other people can fill that role, can feel what it feels like. But can also put themselves in someone else’s shoes along the way.

[00:10:43] Tricia: Oh, exactly. And I think that as leaders. We often forget. That it might, if we’re in part of the majority, we don’t realize how hard it might be for others. And I think storytelling is another component that I think is super [00:11:00] important.

I first told my story at a company meeting and was incredibly scared to talk about my ethnicity, my culture, where I came from. I really downplayed a lot of that in the workforce to succeed. There was a lot of fear, but then realizing that it actually made an impact on others that look like me or have similar lived experiences.

And having other leaders who have worked beside me, alongside of me for years, recognizing some of the challenges they may not see. Started to break down some of those barriers and started creating some empathy across the board from employees to managers, to leaders. And I think storytelling and storytelling programs within companies really help us understand what we may not see on a day-to-day basis.

[00:11:48] Amy: Talk a little bit more about this level of risk in storytelling and the fear, because a lot of times when we’re different in a, in an organization or on a team, we don’t want to talk about our difference because we don’t [00:12:00] wanna call attention to it. We feel like we’re putting a spotlight on how we’re othered.

But it sounds like being just a little bit brave in the right moment can make a huge difference. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

[00:12:09] Tricia: Yeah, that’s really the genesis of my entire book is, embrace the power of you. And it’s hard, just exactly like you said.

Because there have been messages all along our lives telling us that you may not be enough, you may not be good enough that, and so the fear is real. So I think one of the things I try to do in my book is really give people the tools that they need to succeed in telling their story. So finding people, mentors, community other places that’ll provide you the support that you are enough, that you, your story matters, that people are interested, that’s actually valuable and, and to the organization and to those around you.

And once you start building that confidence, then you get the courage to be a little bit more vulnerable and it doesn’t have to be huge. For me to get to that place [00:13:00] where I’ve talked in front of the company meeting, there were many steps before that where I slowly started telling my story first to safe places to friends, then to colleagues that felt safe.

Then to my manager. And so slowly building it and repeating that action, realizing that actually this is something that’s valuable and interesting gave me the courage to then tell my story in a broader perspective. And so I think it’s I say it’s small steps repeated often, and that can build the courage to tell your story.

[00:13:33] Amy: Were you worried at all that your story would be weaponized against you at work?

[00:13:35] Tricia: Yes. Yeah. Yes and no. I will say, I was the bravest in the sense that I probably would not have told my story in a different company culture. My company culture was very embracing of D&I and inclusivity. So as a core foundation, I knew that it was somewhat safe.

You definitely have to be aware of what kind of company [00:14:00] culture you’re in, because it definitely can be we weaponized against you. So I think one identifying is it a place that might embrace it, but despite even knowing that it was a place that was welcoming of diverse perspectives and inclusivity, there’s still that fear.

There’s 25 years of derogatory statements said about me, my culture, my people, over and over again, it, you internalize that, that way of thinking. And there’s a ton of fear that all bubbles up. So yes, but I wasn’t super brave because it was a very welcoming place.

[00:14:35] Amy: Yeah, that’s so important. And I think about when people share stories and I talk about this a lot too in my work. The quickest way to build trust across difference is storytelling. Absolutely. Absolutely. Stories build trust. Trust builds relationships and relationships. Make or break careers.

. And if we don’t start with storytelling, we don’t get anywhere. We don’t build the relationships we need.

[00:14:56] Tricia: And I think people don’t, may not realize. What’s [00:15:00] your story, what there may be, in the background of what you’ve had to overcome? And we all have, we’ve all have things that we’ve overcome and there’s a bond that can happen there as you start telling your stories.

We may not be of the same race or gender or sexual orientation, but we may bond over our economic situation or where are parents divorced or are we a parent? Through storytelling and through sharing a little bit of our, about of our lived experiences, there’s a bond that can happen between people.

[00:15:31] Amy: Yeah, I agree. And I think a lot of times when we connect to how somebody feels, yeah. And we think about, I’ve felt that way, maybe not for that reason. But I felt that way, and I know what that feeling feels like. We can connect on a feelings level even. We can’t connect on a beliefs level or we can’t connect on values, but we can connect on feelings and start to feel some empathy for one another about, oh, that’s a horrible feeling.

I felt that way. Exactly. In a completely different circumstance, so , I usually if people, if two people don’t have anything in common, I’m like, have you ever felt sad? Yes. Have you ever [00:16:00] felt sad? Yes. How did that feel? It was awful. Okay. You have that in common. You both don’t like feeling sad, so let’s start there.

We can’t even agree on ice cream, but we can agree that sad doesn’t feel so good and it’s slow, but it’s a start. I think sometimes when people feel like they don’t have any common ground, just rooting them in their own humanity.

[00:16:19] Tricia: No, I agree. It’s interesting. My, my husband’s a white man and, but he grew up in the south and so he had a strong accent before he moved to California.

He lived in California as a teenager, and so he had to change his accent: his accent as he, when he moved into this environment and feeling like that, even though it was a short period of time, but feeling that sense of being different, everyone’s making fun of his accent and all of that.

That, like you were saying, just that what that feels like to be different really resonates with him. And even now he. Looks for people that are still feel like others to make them feel welcome. And you wouldn’t have thought, he’s a [00:17:00] white guy, things aren’t easy, but he knows what it feels like.

So it’s empathy. Where did you feel like another in your life?

[00:17:06] Amy: And it, a lot of times it’s situational. It might be just for a moment or just for a day. But recognizing that some people go their whole careers that way. And if you expand on that horrible feeling that he had for a week or a month or a year, that makes a big difference in how people, how they work, how they show up and how much of themselves they share.

 So Tricia, I wanna thank you so much. Tell us where we can get the book.

[00:17:27] Tricia: It’s available on all all sites. But you can reach me at triciatimm.com and you can order the book there.

[00:17:35] Amy: Excellent. We’ll put the link on the website with the show notes and make sure that everybody gets a copy. I’ll try to find it on Amazon and link to it as well. So people can go right there and buy it. Thank you so much for your time today.

[00:17:45] Tricia: Oh, you’re welcome.

[00:17:47] Amy: For sharing your story and for sharing a little bit about Salsify with us.

[00:17:50] Tricia: Thank you, Amy. It’s a pleasure to be here.

[00:18:00] [outro] [00:18:42] Amy: That’s it for this week’s episode of Including You. Join me next week when my guest will be Dr. Rosalyn Cohen from Associate Strategies.

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Amy C. Waninger Author Bio

Amy C. Waninger is the Founder & CEO of Lead at Any Level, where she improves employee engagement and retention for companies that promote from within. Amy offers assessments, advisory services, and training on essential skills for inclusive leaders. She is the author of eight books. Learn more at www.LeadAtAnyLevel.com

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